If I were Eric Dickerson, here is what I believe I would do:
--I would not look at the 20 or so guys in the league who are making more than the $686,000 a year I am making; I would look at the 1,200 or so guys in the league who are making less.
--Then, I would look at the guys going down into the coal mines for a whole lot less.
I'll tell you a little story. When I was in the magazine dodge and went to New York for a stint and became unhappy with my pay, my editors, my career in general, I used to contrive to take the evening train up to New England to visit the family.
I arranged it so that I would be just in time to look out the train window and see the guys in the rows on rows of factories taking off their blue smocks and goggles and putting up the drill presses for the night. I would be a very docile employee for, oh, say, the next six months after that. I'm kind of glad I was.
--I believe I would soft-pedal all that language about being so depressed by pay that I might not be able to do my best on the field.
You see, Americans are used to the blue flu--cops on disguised strikes--sick-outs, sit-ins, slow-downs, anything short of outright sabotage. But not when it comes to the Rams. I mean, the Rams are sacred.
Those fans don't care if the Rams give you Rhode Island and parts of downtown Dallas or not but when you get that football, you better be Eric Dickerson. The whole nine yards.
Not to do your best is unthinkable. Even to hint that you might not, even though everyone knows you don't mean it, is unspeakable. I mean, this is football! Right up there with chewing gum, apple pie, hot dogs and homemade fudge.
Not to do your best for ITT in a labor dispute is good old American gamesmanship. Not to do your best for your team is treason. The last guys not to do their best in this country were, in order, Benedict Arnold, the 1919 Black Sox and four guys or so who fought Primo Carnera. If I were Eric Dickerson, I wouldn't want to join that company.
--I believe I'd read the fine print on the next new contract I'd sign. The time to evaluate contracts is before you sign them. Maybe Eric can get a clause in there assuring that he gets the same money John Elway gets.
Whatever he'd do, if I were Eric Dickerson, I wouldn't sign any condition based on the Rams getting to the Super Bowl. Running backs don't get their teams to Super Bowls. Not even Eric Dickersons.
--I believe I'd give some thought to my public relations if I were Eric. It's going to be hard. He may have set the league record for self-damaging quotes in the last 10 days. They were hardly Frank Merriwellian in tone.
I know it's not macho to give a rat's rap what other people think of you, but the people who really don't care how they're perceived by their fellow man are in hospitals. This is not pro wrestling. There's no money in being hated. There's a lot of money in being loved. Just ask Arnold Palmer.
--I believe I'd stop listening to my show business "friends." Hollywood is the citadel of sycophancy. Just remember the term yes man originated in Hollywood and was coined to describe an all too recognizable Hollywood type.
I'm old enough to remember when Clark Gable was being told what a sucker he was for staying on salary as a contract player at MGM almost to the day he died. He didn't even get participatory profits in "Gone With the Wind," for which he was a loan-out star.
Well, "Gone With the Wind" did more for Gable than mere money could have done--particularly if some agent's demands had resulted in his not getting that role. Everyone should get everything he can, but I could never see that Gable was ill-served, either financially or professionally, by sitting out his contract.
Agents wrecked the studio system, which may or may not have been a good thing, but I do know studios recognized stars as their only assets and took care of them accordingly. I cannot believe pro football franchises won't, too.
--I believe I would have picked better timing for my pay-me-or-trade-me ultimatum. A team that is 1-5 and meeting the San Francisco 49ers (5-1) doesn't need Eric Dickerson. It needs Noah. Or Lourdes.
--If I were Eric Dickerson, I would say to myself, "You run nice with a football, Dick. And for that you have a home in Malibu, several foreign cars, a paternity suit. The good life. What do you need with the taxi squad?
"The movie star in a quarrel with the producers can go on the road, do clubs, summer stock, even TV or opening leaky satchels from the Titanic. What can an NFL star do? Take handoffs?"